Wilcox, James Bishop
Archive of Correspondence and Ephemera of  the Family of the Rev. James Bishop Wilcox, of Farmington, Connecticut and Genesee County, New York, 1827-1916

49 letters, 179 manuscript pages, plus ephemeral paper items, all dated between 18 Jan 1827 to 12 Sept 1913. Of the 49 letters, 32 were written between 1827 and 1859. The ephemeral material consists of the following items: 35 pages, mostly manuscript, of Wilcox family genealogy and allied families, dated circa 1900-1916; 4 sermons, 84 manuscript pages, dated circa 1829-1833, plus miscellaneous printed and manuscript ephemeral items, deeds, bonds, receipts, invitations, notes, accounts, et cetera

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The Rev. James Bishop Wilcox was born 11 October 1796 at Farmington, Connecticut, and united with the Congregational Church in Farmington. He was the son of Asa Wilcox and Lois Bishop, natives of Connecticut.  The Rev. Wilcox prepared for college at Farmington. He entered Middlebury College in 1822, graduating with an A. B. in 1825. He became the principal of the Academy at Simsbury, Connecticut for one year in 1825-1826, before attending Auburn Theological Seminary 1826-1827, where he studied theology with the Rev. John Maclean for two years. He was ordained at Avon, Connecticut, by the Hartford North Association in 1828. Wilcox became the pastor at the Presbyterian Church, Bethany Center, New York, for 1830-1831; Mount Morris, 1831; Granville, 1834; Portageville, 1836. He was also an agent for the Livingston County Bible Society, the New York Anti-Slavery Society, and the State Temperance Society. He preached in Western New York for thirty years. For several years after 1860, he was the proprietor of a seminary, in Darien Center, New York.

    On October 3, 1828, Rev. Wilcox married Hannah Hopkins Hodge (b. 25 May 1807) of Hadley, Massachusetts. She was the daughter of William Hodge and his wife Amanda Hopkins, both of Massachusetts. Amanda Hopkins was the granddaughter of Esther Edwards, the sister of the famous minister, Rev. Jonathan Edwards.

           The Wilcox's had at least the following ten children: Charles H.; Emily Hopkins [Mrs. Daniel D. Sears]; Mary Louise [Mrs. Orson W. Fellows]; Eliza Bishop [Mrs. Charles W. McCarthy]; John Angell James; Harriet Amelia [Mrs. Daniel D. Sears]; William Henry; Edward Hopkins; Helen Augusta; Flora Edna [Mrs. Francis L. Brown].

     Flora Wilcox's husband, Francis L. Brown, was the son of Hiram and Kester Brown. Francis L. Brown and James A. J. Wilcox acted as executors for the will of the Rev. James Bishop Wilcox. (The archive includes a copy Rev. Wilcox's will).

     The Rev. James B. Wilcox was known as a learned Presbyterian minister of the Genesee Country, who first arrived in New York State from his native Connecticut by stage coach and canal. He also lived at Castile, Genesee County for a time, before moving to Manchester. He died at Shortsville, New York, 16 July 1886.


     The correspondents include members of the Wilcox and Hodge family writing to each other. They write from various locals in New England, New York State and beyond: Bristol, Farmington, Hartford, and New Britain, Connecticut; Ft. McHenry, Maryland; Boston and Hadley, Massachusetts; Engleside, Missouri; Clay, Geneva, Lysander; Syracuse, and Walworth, New York; Bucyrus and Coolville, Ohio; Philadelphia; and  Middlebury and Oakfield, Vermont.

     The letters are mainly written to the Rev. James B. Wilcox and his wife Hannah Hodge, (either individually, or jointly, from family members). Rev. Wilcox and his wife also write several of the letters. Later letters include correspondence to and from Wilcox's children. Asa Wilcox, the brother of Rev. Wilcox, writes to his brother from Middlebury, Vermont. Esther E. Adams, a sister to Mrs. Wilcox, writes her sister. The following are a couple of examples from the letters of Asa Wilcox, to the Rev. James B. Wilcox, while Wilcox was at Auburn Theological Seminary:

    "18 Jan 1827

I would once more express my gratification at your good fortune in obtaining the situation you have there is no part of the U.S. I should be so much gratified to visit as that between Albany and the Lake. I believe the moral condition of the people of the state of N. York is fast improving. But there exists among them an unhappy Political party spirit; and the tone of moral and religious feeling among their great Men must be considered rather low when they appoint a habitual drunkard speaker of their House of Representatives at Albany."

     "10 April 1828...I expect Free Masonry is the order of the day in that part of the country where you are. I have seen two or three of the Anti-Masonic Papers printed at Utica, it may be difficult to predict what will be the result of this extraordinary excitement but it appears to me that Masonry must fall, as the anti-Masonic spirit appears to be fast spreading through the country."

     Several letters include accounts of journeys taken "back home" after the writer visited the Wilcox family, one a journey from the Genesee Country in Western New York to Farmington, Connecticut, by Rev. Wilcox's sister. It describes getting off and on boats and carriages and the various difficulties encountered while traveling in the 1830s. Letters also include news about family and home, who was married, died, or sick, offers of marriage, and other domestic occurrences. One particularly sad letter of 1835 tells of the death of the Rev. Wilcox's sister:

"I cannot realize what I am about to communicate to you, and the surprise you must feel to know that our beloved sister Lurancy is no more and it is only when the certainty of it does not take our full possession of my heart that I could thus declare it to you."

      The letter continues for three pages, with much description of the last days of their sister who died of consumption. Another letter describes the death of another sister.

One letter from his brother Asa of Middlebury, gives details of a great revival meeting, where many were converted:

     "A protracted Meeting has been held in this place this last fall. It commenced about the middle of Nov. and continued 24 days. It was accompanied with a Revival of greater extent and Power than any I ever witnessed. There were upwards of four hundred who professed to submit themselves to God. Though probably from one third to one half of them belonged to other towns adjoining this. Many aged, or middle aged men of this village have united with the church since this Meeting! The Names of some of them you will probably recollect, such as Moses Leonard, Asa Chapman, Wm. B. Martin, and Harvey Bell. Our daughter Delia Anne united with the church last Sabbath. The Rev. Birchard attended the Meeting of who you have probably heard if you have not seen him. He came from the vicinity of Buffalo. There are some things in his mode of preaching and other proceedings which are objectionable, but the fact cannot be denied that he has been the instrument in the hand of God of great good not only in this place but in other parts of this state which he has visited. He of course has to encounter great opposition from Episcopalians, Unitarians, Universalists and the whole Kingdom of Satan, who in some places has almost literally come down in great wrath."

Another letter, written by J. Wilcox to his brother (Rev. Wilcox), gives some insights into the engraving trade in 1855:

     "Farmington, Oct 8th, 1855

Dear Brother

I arrived home a few days since had a pleasant journey passed over the suspension bridge thence to Detroit and from there to Chicago. I went into 5 different states and arrived home without accident. Your son James wished me to make some enquiry when I got home concerning the trade of engraving and write to him. According to his request I have been to Hartford and made enquiry of one Mr. Kellogg who is an engraver. He says it depends upon a young man's natural abilities for drawing and a natural genius for engraving. He says a young man seldom can earn anything the first year. He says he has in some instances paid something after the first six months. He says it is difficult to tell what he can do by a young man until they have had a trial. He says it is a profitable trade, but a difficult one to learn. His engraving is on steel & copper. He would like to see a specimen of his drawing. Yours in haste, J. Wilcox."

     It would appear that the Rev. Wilcox's son, J.A.J. Wilcox, took up the offer of Mr. Kellogg and went to Hartford to apprentice with him as an engraver, as a letter of 19 November 1856 states:

     "Mr. Kellogg pays me nothing but my board, nor can he afford it. If I could have a plenty of work; such as I can do, I could earn more, but it is not best that I should have, for if I worked all the time on work that I know how to do, I should never learn to do that which I do not know how to do. I guess that I shall be able to engrave pretty tolerably well, by the time I have been here two years. You may put as much confidence in my guessing as you chose, I will not be positive. To engrave a picture from an engraving is comparatively easy; but to make one from a drawing, a painting, or a daguerreotype is something to be proud of."

     Wilcox's son continues in his letter to speak about the political climate and slavery. His father was known to be an agent for the New York Anti-Slavery Society and his son seems to have concurred with his father's opinion of slavery. The younger Wilcox was excited about the 1856 presidential campaign:

     "The political excitement has nearly subsided. The battle is ended, and the victory not won. Although we have not gained the battle, we have given the enemy a blow from which they will not soon recover, and accomplished an orderly and safe retreat, which is a greater proof of generalship than fighting. Though checked, we are not disheartened, and hope to grow stronger, and stronger, until we shall be able to overpower the myrmidons of slavery, not withstanding they have all the power on their side, practice the basest fraud, and make use of bribery and extortion to accomplish their nefarious designs. I have heard most all of the great guns of the campaign, most of which were real seventy-fours. They were all so good, that I hardly know which was best, but I think I have to give Mr. Banks, the speaker of the house, the preference."

Politics, religion, work, family, and domestic life are the overriding themes of the correspondence, as the collection tracks the comings and goings of a widely spread out family of the 19th Century.